Friday, 10 May 2019

Noah's Ark abandoned

Over the last 48 hours we've had more than our fair share of rain. So heavy was the downpour at times that I considered that an ark could be needed. Not having been trained in ark building (arkeology?) I took my instructions from the 15th Century Chester Miracle Play:

                               One hundred cubetts it shall be longe,
                               And fiftie brode, to make yt stronge,
                               Of heighte fifty...
                                   Thus messuer it about.

Ever though I made a conservative guess about the length of a cubit, I realised it wouldn't fit in the garden, so I gave up on the idea.

As is oft the way the skies cleared, a dove came into the garden with a twig, and on Friday afternoon I made my way over to Stefen Hill Pocket Park.

The rain had been accompanied by some high winds and this Small (Cabbage) White, Pieris rapae, had received a bit of a battering, a forewing having been torn. The forewing can have two black spots, one spot or, as in this example, with a spot so faint it can barely be seen.
Small White displaying a war wound. Stefen Hill Pocket Park.
10 May, 2019
I ventured into an area of the park which, for some reason, I had barely seen before and was delighted to find maybe a couple of dozen plants of Cuckooflower, Cardamine pratensis. It other widely used name is Lady's Smock. Milkmaids and Fairyflower are more local names.

Cuckooflowers are still found here and there. One place is
Stefen Hill Pocket Park, Daventry. 10 May, 2019

A century or more ago it was probably one of Britain's commonest wild flowers and was a major food plant for the caterpillar of the Orange Tip butterfly, Anthocharis cardamines. Widespread drainage has led to a steep decline in the abundance of Cuckooflower and nowadays The Orange Tip probably relies more on the still-abundant Hedge Garlic. Given half a chance the caterpillars will eat any less-developed specimens for they are enthusiastic cannibals.

Too wet and cold to fly away.
In the wet grass I found a very bedraggled bee. I took it home for a closer examination and despite the wet pile on its thorax and abdomen I felt fairly sure it was a Field Cuckoo Bee, Bombus campestris. As it dried out the pattern of hairs on the abdomen became clearer and, with its 15 mm wingspan I became more convinced. However, I won't add it to the park list as I really am not experienced enough with Bombus species, especially wet ones! I released it later.

Cuckoo bees, as the name suggests are parasitic on other bumblebees, the queen cuckoo bee killing the queen bumblebee and laying her eggs in the nest of the victim. The young are then raised by the bumblebee workers.

Field Cuckoo Bee? I can't be sure.
Stefen Hill Pocket Park, 10 May, 2019
I have been disappointed that the pocket park contains no oak trees - or so I thought. As I left this under-visited area, partly concealed by a spreading Norway maple, I found a specimen. One reason I was pleased is that oaks are often afflicted by interesting galls, mostly the work of tiny wasps. I found none today but I'll monitor this tree over the next few months.

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